It's been amusing seeing the short sighted blame game going on amongst the few Howlers left, reaching for any straw they can find to deflect attention from the fact that Howland has earned his pink slip at the end of the year. Against Stanford, Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, and Shabazz Muhammad made a statement to their doubters in not so many words: it ain't us, it's the coach.
That's not to say that there hasn't ever been reason to question how these guys would integrate, but ever since the departure of Tyler Lamb and Josh Smith, the freshmen have been depended upon more than was ever predicted when this year began. So it's been hilarious to see people ascribe certain expectations upon them that were never, not once, set before the season started.
Offensively, this was a big game for the Bruins, coming off of a string of subpar performances, they really needed to see the ball go in the basket a few times, and from the very opening of the game, it was clear that Stanford was willing to oblige. For their part, UCLA returned the favor with shoddy defense of their own, but that's not surprising, nor is the Cardinal's inability to capitalize on it. They showed multiple times in both meetings that there isn't a point blank layup out there that Stanford can't botch.
Back to the stars of the show, Adams, Muhammad, and Anderson got 20, 25, and 18 points respectively on a combined 63% shooting. Anderson also got his rebounding form back, pulling down 13, and helped the Bruins not lose (37 for both teams) the rebounding edge for the first time since, I think Oregon State.
The breakout performance was more notable for the fact that with how involved they were in the offense, the Wears were deemphasized, and that turned out to be a very good thing. It was a reminder that we all weren't necessarily crazy for believing at one point that this is a team that could make a run. You could see how a team that features these freshmen offensively could possibly be dynamic, and that we could try to limit their weaknesses on defense with solid interior play and good rebounding. Obviously with the state of our frontline now being the Wears, the ceiling looks quite similar to last year, but it wasn't foolish to dream.
Of course the caveats that come with this are almost as noteworthy as the story itself. Stanford is still the bad team they were when they came to Old Pauley Under Glass. The Wears were hapless inside and another set of forward/centers tore through us. Stanford's Dwight Powell got 22 and 8 boards while Josh Huestis picked up a gag reflex inducing 9 offensive rebounds against our Charmin soft bigs.
So it's great to watch the kids get out and run. Anderson who had had a particularly poor first half really bounced back and it was a feel good moment for him with his recent struggles. Unfortunately by the time the buzzer sounded, the reality still sets in: this was a bad trip for the team after the Valentine's Day Massacre at Cal. It's the reality that this is a terrible conference doing everything it can to keep the Bruins in it after we lost to ASU, Cal, and the Trogans, but we continue to give it back. So all in all, no, not a HUGE win. Not even a good win if we're being honest about it. But it was a nice distraction, especially if you're rooting on the freshmen like I am, because they surely didn't sign up for this.